By CounterAct, Womens Climate Justice Collective (WCJC)
These resources were gathered as part of a collaborative project between CounterAct and the Women’s Climate Justice Collective (WCJC) a national collective of women, and gender diverse folk who are seeking to deepen understandings across sectors of feminism and climate justice.
This is a work in progress, and we’d like to acknowledge that some very serious subjects are only able to be lightly touched on – the information gathered is “wide and shallow” as conversations around what constitutes climate justice in Australia are emergent with shared understanding still to be developed.
We hope to improve this, and WCJC will be developing a “train the trainer” package as a next step, so you can deepen understanding in your group. In the meantime either contact WCJC or CounterAct to run a workshop for you, or feel free to use these resources to instigate discussion in your groups. There are facilitation resources to assist below.
WCJC and CounterAct acknowledge that there can be no effective solution/s to lessen the impacts of climate change that do not learn from the mistakes of the past. Aboriginal and First Nations people must be centred in decision making, and their knowledge in caring for country for millennia must be honoured, sought out, understood and their time paid for in providing advice. There have been stories from all over the country for years about the damage being seen by custodians, and ideas for management based in science and 1000s of years of experience.
FIRST NATIONS RESOURCES
- Indigenous Youth Declaration for Climate Justice – Seed
- Blak New deal – Overland
- CLC media release on climate impacts on Central Australia
- Indigenous knowledge systems can help solve the problem of climate change – Indigenous X, Guardian
- Indigenous Peoples Policy for Green climate fund – WeDo
- Other general resources on CounterAct’s SOLIDARITY resource page
- There has been significant discussion in late 2019/early 2020 after the unprecedented fires about Indigenous land managament and cultural burning practices.
- Indigenous leaders say Australia’s bushfire crisis shows approach to land management failing
- Firesticks alliance is a First Nations led approach to land management & protection of country
- Cultural burning is more about just hazard prevention
- Indigenous knowledge must be brought into the bushfires conversation
KNOW YOUR HISTORY
- Aboriginal Tent Embassy – Case study
- Learn from elders – Uncle Kevin Buzzacott
- Gurundji Land Rights – Case study and training guide
- The Freedom Riders – Case study
CLIMATE EMERGENCY CRITIQUES
There is a pattern of critique from First Nation organisers about the narrative of “climate emergency” which has been broadly adopted by the climate movement, and rapidly increased in take up since many levels of government have been lobbied worldwide to declare an emergency, and the growth of the Extinction Rebellion movement.
The emergency framing can bring up ideas of military or state intervention, and a potential loss of human rights, and civil liberties. Aboriginal people in particular have concerns around how the “emergency” regarding the abuse of children led to the Northern Territory intervention and significant harm. With the unpredecented deployment of the military to relocate climate refugees this is something as a movement we must be mindful of. The “state of emergency” has already resulted in Victorian police depicting protesters as selfish and reckless. (Jan 2020)
Critiques on Eureka Street, Sydney Morning Herald, from Australian Youth Climate Coalition (who work closely with Seed – Aboriginal organisers for climate justice).
WORKING WITH WOMEN AND LGBTQIA+ COMMUNITIES
- Guide to terminology for trans and gender diverse people
- Guide to being a good ally – from India
- Left Out and Behind: Fully Incorporating Gender Into the Climate Discourse
In the aftermath of natural disasters, which are expected to become more frequent and intense as the climate changes, members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI) community are routinely excluded from response, relief, and recovery efforts.
LGBTQI individuals are uniquely vulnerable to exclusion, violence, and exploitation because of the intersecting impacts of social stigma, discrimination, and climate change. According to a recent legal survey, homosexual acts are punishable by death in 10 countries and are illegal in another 65. Eighty-nine other countries discriminate against LGBTQI individuals and families in other ways: same-sex couples and families are excluded from legal recognition, prevented from adopting children, or denied housing, employment, and services. Transgender people often face extreme discrimination and are even targets of “corrective rape.”
- Gender and Climate Change: A Closer Look at Existing Evidence (2016) – This is an excellent resource and overview of the many and complex challenges faced by women
- Great simple video – Climate & Environmental Justice – WEDO
- Women, climate and art – some beautiful posters designed
- Gender CC – women for climate justice – various resources
- Gender and the Climate Change Agenda – Womens Environmental Network
- The fight for climate justice must be feminist, anti-racist and anti-capitalist … What does a feminist perspective mean? ~ Rosa Luxembourg:
- “Feminism is constituted by a wide range of political movements, ideologies, and social movements across the globe that share the common goal to define, establish, and achieve the political, economic, social and personal equality of the sexes. At the same time, feminist movements fight against gender stereotypes, deconstructing roles and images that are attributed to the biological sex of men and women that most often go along with giving less power to women and more access, privileges and possibilities to men. In sum, a feminist perspective tries to recognize, analyze, criticize and change the power relations that are established on the base of sex and gender.
- Feminist movement nowadays include a widely intersectional perspective into their work, bringing perspectives on race, class, age, ableism, and more form of discrimination into their work. This makes feminist social analysis more fruitful and creates growing links with other social movements. Especially the ecological movements were and are open to feminist perspectives and by this enrich the struggle against the climate crisis and ecological destruction in a capitalist world.“
- What is intersectionality – Video resource (short, under 3 min)
- The urgency of intersectionality, TED Talk, Kimberlie Crenshaw – Video resource (18 min)
- Explaining intersectionality – Time
- What is intersectionality and why is it important – AAUP
TALKING ABOUT CLIMATE
Mainstream organisations such as the Climate Council or environment groups such as Australian Conservation Foundation, will often have resources for facts and stats about climate. These can be useful, but its also important to note that people tend to relate more to story, than fact.
They also have very little information specifically focused on the issue of climate JUSTICE, or how marginalised groups may be impacted. Its useful to have accurate information, however, so here are some resources.
- School strike for climate – Bushfire crisis – conversation & action guide (Dec 2019)
- Bushfire Crisis information – great collection (note: from a religious organisation)
- Climate Council –
- Doctors for the Environment
- “I’m worried about the climate – what can I do”
- The Womens Global Call for Climate Justice – action tool kit (slightly dated)
Organisations that have done some work on Climate Justice in Australia include
- Seed (mentioned above)
- Oxfam – Food and climate justice & Gender justice
- Action aid (video on climate justice) & Climate Justice page (Link not found 18March2022) They have recently launched Gender Responsive Alternatives for Climate Change
- This is a helpful resource for people who are experiencing climate change distress from Psychology for a Safe Climate, and others.
WHAT IS A GENDER JUST CLIMATE SOLUTION?
Details and case studies here from The Women and Gender Constituency (WGC) which is one of the nine stakeholder groups of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
- Provides equal access to benefits for women, men and youth
- Aims to alleviate and/or does not add additional burden to women’s workload (such as via additional natural resource management or care responsibilities without compensation)
- Empowers women through better mobility/accessibility, enhanced livelihood security, enhanced food security, improved health, access to safe water, etc. (as many benefits as possible)
- Promotes women’s democratic rights and participation by ensuring decision-making by local women, men, women’s groups, cooperatives and communities
- Locally led and/or locally driven (decentralised and appropriate)
- Ensures self-sufficiency & a low input of resources (safe, affordable and sustainable)
- Contributes to climate change mitigation, emissions reduction and/or climate adaptation (the project is sustainable)
- Results can be shared, spread & scaled up (replicable elsewhere, not just benefiting one individual)
- Shows interlinkages to cross-cutting issues, such as (including, but not restricted to) peace-building, natural resources management, food security and/or health, water and sanitation
PRISONS – A case study in vulnerable communities
- US prison inmates have been used effectively as slave labour – risking it all as unsupported firefighters
- When summer is torture, 2010, US … “In one high-profile case in 2009, Marcia Powell, a 48-year old inmate at Arizona’s Perryville Prison, was baked to death in the midday sun.”
Incarcerated people are extremely vulnerable to weather impacts. One example locally is Broome Prison (Yawuru nation). There is no climate control in the general prison area. During the wet season in December the temperature regularly tops 40 degrees, daily averages are 34 maximum, and 26 degrees minimum. January and February have humidity at 67%.
This will obviously have mental impacts, on top of the physical discomfort and lead to a higher likelihood of frustration and conflict.
There are numerous horror stories of people being left behind, not cared for and receiving inhumane treatment when extreme weather events have hit, in the United States and elsewhere. Some of the extensive climate impacts on incarcerated people are well outlined in this detailed infographic.
- Government defends decision to keep Lithgow prisoners inside as fire rages
- Prison inmates fight california fires (US)
- Climate change, prison labour and the electric company (US)
- Extreme heat in prisons dangerous for some inmates (United States)
“It’s hard to get exact statistics, because we have 51 separate prison systems and literally hundreds of jails in this country. But one thing I can tell you is it’s becoming a bigger problem as the prison population ages and has more people with chronic medical conditions, more people on medications that make them heat sensitive, and as the weather is changing and we have hotter summers, at least in certain parts of the country.” – David Fathi
Sisters Inside is a Queensland based organisation with national reach which has a brilliant range of resources and submissions to various government processes outlining the challenges for incarcerated women, with a great many variables that could be exacerbated by climate impacts.
IMPACTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE ON VULNERABLE POPULATIONS
In the international literature on climate change there is an emerging concern that the negative effects of climate change will be disproportionately experienced by those who are economically and socially disadvantaged, further widening the gap between them and more advantaged population groups. However, the relationship between climate change impact and social disadvantage remains little investigated. This study has sought to contribute to this gap by adding to the small body of empirical knowledge of the vulnerability and adaptive capacity of disadvantaged groups in Australia in the face of impending adverse impacts of climate change. ~ National Climate Change Adaptation Research facility, 2013, – paper available
WOMEN WITHOUT HOMES
Older women—those aged 55 and over— are the fastest growing cohort of homeless Australians between 2011 and 2016, increasing by 31%. It is likely this trend will continue given the ongoing shortage of affordable housing, the ageing population and the significant gap in wealth accumulation between men and women across their lifetimes.~ Australian Human Rights Commission
- Older Women’s Risk of Homelessness: Background Paper
- The precarious lives of women over 55
- Why are so many older Australian women becoming homeless
“More low-income women are going to find themselves struggling later in life, as high housing costs and low retirement savings mean that they have fewer resources to cope with unexpected shocks such as losing their job or deteriorating health,”… (and) the real rate of female homelessness was likely to be higher than the census suggests because women tended not to report themselves as homeless unless they were sleeping rough.”
PEOPLE ON LOW INCOMES
Low-income communities already have higher rates of many health conditions, are more exposed to environmental hazards and take longer to bounce back from natural disasters. There is a term that has been used to describe the intersection of low income areas, particularly those that are predominantly made up of First Nations communities, or people of colour.
- Article on low income folks in the United States – From CNBC
The report emphasizes the need for government officials to involve low-income residents when developing solutions to climate change.
PEOPLE WHO ARE RENTING
Recent ABS statistics show a 42 per cent increase in people over 65 paying unaffordable rents in Australia since 2011, including 132,301 people whose rent is more than 30 per cent of their income.
Anglicare’s 2018 Rental Affordability Snapshot revealed less than two per cent of available housing stock in Australia was affordable and appropriate for a single person on an Age Pension.
There are also significant logistical challenges, even for people who aren’t on low income and renting. Landlords are often uninterested in making the types of modifications that they may make for their own homes, such as insulation, ensuring the house isn’t drafty. People are often unable to make changes to their gardens, grow trees for shade or food, and in many ways they are denied the ability to self adapt to conditions of extreme heat or cold.
As is similar with many issues we have noted, there is little information in the public domain about impacts of climate on a range of vulnerable populations in Australia. Issues for disabled people are one of these areas. Here is an excellent discussion from the Wheeler Centre in Victoria on “Leading the Charge – Climate Change, disability and story telling”.
You can learn more about resistance led by disabled people in two folks, Weird and Wonderful and Defiant Lives
Internationally climate impacts on disabled people are finally being taken seriously at the UN level with an historic document produced by the UNHCR adopting a resolution on climate change and the rights of people with disabilities. The resolution calls on governments to adopt a disability-inclusive approach when taking action to address climate change.
In terms of environmental/climate organisations and disability organisations there has been little collaboration. This is one area where we could use the opportunity of shared challenges to work together. An example of clash instead of collaboration is a simple issue of plastic straws. Many able bodied people see straws as an easy thing to give up – “low hanging fruit” if you will, in terms of plastic pollution. However they make life possible for people with disabilities and no suitable alternative exists. Disabled people have been frustrated that they have not been listened to, inappropriate solutions have been suggested, and there has been little collaboration about how to approach the issue.
- The climate revolution must be accessible – this fight belongs to disabled people too … “As part of the environmental movement, plastic straws, which enable around one in four people with my disability to drink, will soon be banned in all drinking establishments. Yet things we could all do without – plastic packaging, six-pack rings and polystyrene cups – remain unregulated and freely flow into our oceans.”
- What does climate change have to do with poverty and disability
- Intersectional approaches to disability
- Disabled people can not be expected losses in the climate crisis
- Disability Visibility project – climate change
- To survive climate catastrophe look to queer and disabled folks
- The disabled are probably most vulnerable to climate change – TruthOut (US, 2017)
- World Institute of Disability – disaster preparedness
- Impacts of Hurricane Katrina on Rita on people with disabilities (US, Aug 2006)
“People with disability are equally concerned about environmental issues and the impact plastics make… but we need to consider the unintended consequences that a total ban would have on people with disabilities, It really impacts on people being able to go out in public, drink in public, socialise, and participate in public life and in the community.” – Pro Bono News
- I Need Plastic Straws To Drink. I Also Want To Save The Environment ~ Huffington Post ~ People with disabilities want to save the planet. We also need to be able to drink. These two positions do not have to be mutually exclusive. Banning plastic straws entirely is not the answer.
These resources will be added to. We are aware that there is work to be done in mitigation and adaptation, and there are demographics that we have not been able to discuss at length, including culturally and linguistically diverse people, folk who aren’t neurotypical, older people and many others. Suffice to say, there needs to be significantly more work in our movement/s to truly understand what it means to approach our situation with a completely aware perspective of climate justice.
PRACTICAL CLIMATE JUSTICE
One discussion we have been encouraging at workshops is what asking people “What does climate justice look like on the ground” or in part of everyday life… what are some practical or tangible approaches we could take to act in ways that are climate just.
- Nothing about us without us – try and seek out impacted people or research and learn from work they have initiated before “helping”
- Everything is connected. Find a local First Nations group and support their work. Don’t wonder why they won’t join “your” group. Find out how you can support them. Build relationships and trust. Some good groups to support include Warriors of Aboriginal Resistance who have groups in Melbourne, Brisbane and elsewhere. Also Seed, and there are various other groups that involve both allies and First Nations people such as various Deaths in Custody support groups, and FIRE.
- Keep an eye out for mutual aid and direct action opportunities. Here is an article about the work FIRE have been doing, getting water to regional Aboriginal communities. In the recent fire and smoke disasters people have been helping out in all different kinds of ways, from donating, to sewing pouches for injured wildlife, to distributing masks to homeless people, to building a platform for people to Find a Bed.Things are not going to get much better from here, and definitely worse before they get better if we manage to swing this ship around, so build community, support each other and work out how you can connect more with your local neighbourhood – building community and resilience and strong networks is the only thing that will hold us through the times to come.
Another discussion to have is WHO IS MISSING FROM OUR MOVEMENT – we have been discussing this in workshops in the last few years. One particular group in particular that jas been noted is young families. Here is an example of a response to that – tips for Family Friendly Organising.
If you want to encourage discussions with your own groups in these areas: Facilitation resources are available at Seeds for Change and 350.org has great resources for climate organisers as well as this collection